Don’t Believe the Hyper

Oh dear. It seems that my minor misunderstanding with the good ‘ol SLP last week is being played out in the dreaded blogosphere. Good news that the employment practises of Tindle Newspapers is becoming slightly more transparent; not so great that the poor intern I spoke to is getting a bit of an online kicking.

But being the modern interweb, no identities have been revealed; it will remain that way as far as I am concerned. Walk away, I say, young intern fella / lass. Find an organisation that is capable of giving you the correct kind of training to start off your burgeoning journo career.

Even better – get a blog. I refer you to my answer I gave over the phone some seven days ago, as an explanation as to exactly what a blog is. I hope you were taking notes.

Going down the online route really is as simple as that. Aside from the geographical inaccuracies as to where Sunny Stockwell actually is (um, it’s *not* a borough,) then the real debate here is over traditional media and online publishing.

Seeing as though the majority of my content is published online, it’s no surprise where my loyalties and vision lie. I make no excuses for sharing my experiences in dealing with a dinosaur of a publishing empire that is losing £500k PA, and observing how a supposed local newspaper can fail so badly in reporting a basic local news story.

You may remember at the base of the whole saga was my effort to generate enthusiasm and interest in the recently launched Stockwell Stories oral history blog. A simple press release was fired off to various online and offline local media.

A couple of weeks later, and a phone call from the South London Press tapped me up for some extra details. I am genuinely grateful for this interest in the project. I can’t think of a reporting task that could have been simpler.

Who, what, where, why and when, thank you and goodnight.

How the hell then did we get to the situation then when @pressgazette (gosh!) is using the story as an example of how hyperlocal has the upper hand when it comes to the local news agenda?

Lindsay from the SLP has taken issue with my treatment of the story in the comments left on m’blog:

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe you were talking to an intern? The South London Press takes on weekly work experience students, who may not have English as a first language let alone a familiarity with the geography of South London. You’ve just publicly [sic] torn apart the efforts of a teenager, trying to get their foot onto the first rung of journalism. Nice.”

To which I responded with an apology for making an example of the intern, even though this wasn’t pointed out to me during the initial conversation. Still, it’s rather poor form for the SLP to put up the intern as an excuse for their own failed supervision of a work experience student.

Even worse is the admission that someone with little or no knowledge of the local area (or language – blimey) is let lose on a specific news patch. How are the readers of the SLP expected to trust any news content, when the very basics of borough geography are so blatantly misunderstood?

Lindsay kindly responded, adding some further narrative to the story:

“The SLP take on these interns to give them a chance and overworked staff try their best to supervise them and pass on stories they can manage. But there’s only so much staff can do. It’s unfortunate that this kid made such a hash of the story and they should certainly have told Mr Cobb they were doing work experience.”

Pity the poor intern then, left to poke around unpaid, in an unfamiliar news patch, and put in calls on behalf of an organisation, all in the name of work experience. I replied with:

“Agree totally with the closed network of going down the Nationals route. But is there really any need for this antiquated form of training now? It’s as simple as here’s a blogging platform, find your story, press publish. If the kid is good enough, he or she will get noticed.

You need to write about what you know. This will then shine through in your copy. Starting a blog is the best route for any budding journo to go out there and get their hands dirty.

I write about Stockwell because it’s all that I know about. I’m sure the poor intern that is caught up in this sorry saga has plenty of ideas and enthusiasm around their own interests.

Start a blog, or you’re burnt toast.”

Which really should be the end of the story for me.

Bu then the Press Gazette helpfully adds some useful debate around the issue, raising ideas about how hyperlocal is in a better position to generate capital, because of the greater understanding of local knowledge.

“The collective audience always knows more than the individual journalist. Cost-cutting tilts the balance even further in the wrong direction.”

I wouldn’t know about that, and certainly haven’t made a penny directly out of my blogging efforts over the past six years. That’s not what I’m in it for (although for clarification, I did write a weekly sports column for the SLP for four years. I was sporadically paid for a period of around a year, and then the payments dried up. I calculated that I trousered approximately £160 for around four hundred hours work in total. You can see why I went back to the autonomy of blogging.)

Nope, the motivation for me is that I feel that my local area is not reported or reflected well in traditional media. Organisations (@lambeth_council I’m looking directly at you) are given an easy ride. Local accountability, on both the press and political side, is at an all time low. Readers (and constituents) are treated with contempt.

If anyone locally is still interested in Stockwell Stories, then the blog for the project can be found over here. We’re had a few ‘scheduling malfunctions’ of late, but yep, Stockwell Stories continues to tell it like it is, locally, and online.

That wasn’t such a hard story to tell now, was it?

One thought on “Don’t Believe the Hyper

  1. I only looked at your blog because I was trying to find Lambeth bloggers to tell about an FOI request about kidnap – Lambeth has the second highest rate in London (that may well be old news – http://bloodandproperty.blogspot.com) – Any ideas on why?

    But then I saw your post and it’s made me a bit nervous about anyone looking at my blog – I’m sure it’s riddled with horrendous mistakes! And I’m supposed to have been a journalist for the last 10 years. I did an NCTJ training course in Harlow where they did their best to instil me with a terror of making mistakes. But I wish we didn’t have to worry so much about mistakes and could just concentrate on enjoying what should be a very enjoyable job – Although that attitude might explain my pitiful career so far.

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